Wednesday, September 16 2020

sharpening knives, powernaps, and science experiments

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Dear Journal,

It's knife sharpening day. About once a month, I take out my whetstone from the little corner of my kitchen counter and plunk it in a loaf pan filled with water. For some reason unknown to me, the square block bubbles under the surface of the liquid. After a minute or so, the bubbles stop, and that's my cue to remove the stone and begin with the first knife. I place the stone on a wet rag to keep it from slipping.

There are two sides marked with different color gradients. One is "1000", the other is "300", and without fail I need to google the difference every time I do this monthly chore. The numbers are the grit, and 1000 is just about right for home use. I think I would only need the "300" side if I was repairing an old sword or something. Good to know.

Holding the blade carefully with the pads of my fingers, I sweep each knife across the top of the whetstone. It's tricky keeping the right angle and covering the whole length of the blade - hilt to tip.

It makes a pretty cool sound. The loud metallic scraping sounds like it belongs in the beginning montage of an 80s action movie. Meanwhile, our hero remains stranded in remote Cambodia, and you could say he has an "axe to grind".

Once I've done each side of the blade, I give it a few careful runs with the honing rod. I've done this part so often that I can feel when it's finished. There's a moment when the blade is "honed" that the honing rod loses grip, and the knife slides more freely.

When I've finished a knife, I lay it in the sink until I've sharpened the others. Than out of fear of getting microscopic metal shavings in my food, I give them all a thorough clean with soap and a sponge.

They say the way you can test if a knife is completely sharpened is if it can cut a piece of paper. Personally, I find this test frustrating, and it makes me feel inadequate - especially after all that work. I like the finger nail test. If a knife is sharp enough - sharp enough for my standards - you should be able to shave off your finger nail as if you were whittling a piece of wood.

I pat the knives dry with a towel before hanging them up again. Sometimes I rub some mineral oil on my favorite paring knife, which gets special treatment.


Sip. Good morning, everyone. How is your Wednesday going? We've had a quiet week here. I'm pleased with how much I'm getting done at work. This week I've found a good balance between opening and closing my various social channels. Lately, I prefer solitary mornings. I close slack and email, and riding the caffeine rush of a whole pot of coffee, I write code until lunch time. Chatting with Marissa and Rodney at the table over lunch gently shakes me into a different head space, where I feel a little more friendly and outgoing. In the afternoons, I catch up on what the rest of the team is doing, I read company news, and I help out with reviewing code.

And there's no better way to end the work day than with a power nap. While Marissa was starting to prepare dinner, I climbed onto the couch yesterday for a half hour snooze. I awoke to the smell of ground beef, and to the sound of Rodney thumping things around his room.

"I'll get him out of quiet time," I called into the kitchen.

Rodney and I do science class before dinner on Tuesdays. "Are you excited to do some science?" I asked, while changing him.

"What are we doing today?" he asked.

"Something with baking soda and vinegar," I chuckled. "I haven't worked out the details yet."

Last week's lesson about dissolving things in liquid I found had just a little too much theory and not enough demonstration. Which is why this week, my plan was to just focus on the pyrotechnics.

"Hey Momma, do you know where the balloons are?" I asked.

"Oh Rodney knows," laughed Marissa. "That's his favorite thing to get out of the basement.

Surprised, I turned to Rodney. "Can you help me find the balloons, dude?"

"Sure! This way," said Rodney, taking careful steps down the basement stairs. Rodney led me between stack boxes, over folded cardboard, and between paintings.

"Dada," he said turning around in his tracks. "Don't touch the paintings." He held his finger up and locked eyes to make sure I was taking it as seriously as he.

"Don't touch the paintings - got it," I repeated obediently.

Rodney guided me into the back corner of the basement, first expertly navigating around some stored agility equipment. "Just step, then do a HOP," said Rodney, guiding me like a little basement clutter sherpa.

"The balloons are up there," he pointed. "Can I have two this time?"

Without answering, I reached into the bin and grabbed the whole bag. Rodney began to convulse with excitement. We made our way outside for our science experiment.

"What's this stuff," I asked pouring out some baking soda into tupperware on the deck.

"That's DIRTY SAUCE," he exclaimed.

"Very funny," I said rolling my eyes.

"It's sugar," said Rodney more seriously.

"Close - it's baking soda. Check this out, dude," I said. I added a splash of vinegar and swirled. It made foam bubbles that reached the top of the container, met from Rodney some very literal ooh's and aah's.

"That's gas," I narrated. "Do you know how we can prove it? Watch this dude." Together we scooped some baking soda into a balloon, and stretched it over a plastic watter bottle loaded with more vinegar. We made our way out to the yard. I shook the bottle and threw it, expecting an explosion. The balloon swelled up, but didn't pop.

"WOAHHHHH," said Rodney. "LET'S GOOO."

"Check it out dude, feel it. Is it hot or cold?"

Rodney wandered over to the balloon and scooped it off the floor. "It's cold," he said, surprised. "So chilly."

Baking soda and vinegar is an endothermic reaction, meaning it consumes energy from the rest of the system, making the solution and the balloon cool to the touch. I had forgotten about part.

For the remainder of "science class", we filled up some more balloons. Rodney chased them around the yard with a baseball bat. Very academic stuff, right?

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a wonderful day today.